7/21/2022

Why the West Hasn't Returned Asia's Stolen Artifacts - Explained

When you walk through the #BritishMuseum or #TheMet in New York, you will come across millions of objects from around the world – many of which were looted and trafficked to the west from their places of origin in formerly colonized countries. Recently, the governments of some of these countries – like Cambodia, China, and India - have been pushing for the return of these artifacts. But repatriating stolen artifacts to their home countries is complicated and difficult. Why? Because artifacts have often changed hands many times over decades, it’s difficult to trace exactly where and whom they belong to. There are also problems when the artifacts do make it home. In some cases, items returned home are stolen again because they’re in the hands of museums that aren’t the best caretakers. And this isn’t just a problem of the past. Right now, stolen artifact trafficking is the third largest illegal activity in the world, exceeded only by drugs and weapons. WhatsApp and Facebook groups make it easy to connect with smugglers, and it’s estimated that 10 billion dollars-worth of cultural property is trafficked every year. Putting an end to this practice is still an ongoing issue - and we need to keep having these complicated discussions around stolen artifacts and how to return them to their rightful owners in the future.

7/21/2022

Why the West Hasn't Returned Asia's Stolen Artifacts - Explained

When you walk through the #BritishMuseum or #TheMet in New York, you will come across millions of objects from around the world – many of which were looted and trafficked to the west from their places of origin in formerly colonized countries. Recently, the governments of some of these countries – like Cambodia, China, and India - have been pushing for the return of these artifacts. But repatriating stolen artifacts to their home countries is complicated and difficult. Why? Because artifacts have often changed hands many times over decades, it’s difficult to trace exactly where and whom they belong to. There are also problems when the artifacts do make it home. In some cases, items returned home are stolen again because they’re in the hands of museums that aren’t the best caretakers. And this isn’t just a problem of the past. Right now, stolen artifact trafficking is the third largest illegal activity in the world, exceeded only by drugs and weapons. WhatsApp and Facebook groups make it easy to connect with smugglers, and it’s estimated that 10 billion dollars-worth of cultural property is trafficked every year. Putting an end to this practice is still an ongoing issue - and we need to keep having these complicated discussions around stolen artifacts and how to return them to their rightful owners in the future.

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Why the West Hasn't Returned Asia's Stolen Artifacts - Explained